came to the U.S. in 1903 with her parents. She attended a nursing school in D.C. and
graduated with honors. After graduating, she married James Max Keaton only to later
divorce. Her second marriage to Fritz C. Staupers ended with his death in 1949.
Mabel Staupers was influenced by many factors growing up. She saw the discrimination
against African Americans as a child. Later she would see first hand the struggles of
African American nurses and patients during the early 1900’s. During this time it was
difficult for an African American nurse to find employment. They often had to take
positions as private duty nurses, since hospital positions were few and far between. It was
also difficult for African American nurses to obtain a higher education, as there were few
higher education colleges excepting African American students. Another significant
influence for Staupers was the limited membership into nursing organizations for African
Americans. If they were able to gain a membership, they were often limited
memberships. All of these struggles influenced Mabel Staupers to work towards ending
discrimination for African Americans.
Throughout her career, Mabel Staupers had many successes. Staupers was one of the few
African American nurses to be granted admission to nursing school. She attended
Freedman’s Hospital School of Nursing in D.C. in 1917. After graduating she moved to
New York to help establish the Booker T. Washington Sanitarium in Harlem, New York.
This was the first hospital to treat African American’s with tuberculosis. She also held a
position on the Citizens’ Committee affiliated with the New York local Association of
Colored Graduate Nurses. However, she found the most pride in her position with the
National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses (NACGN). She was not only a member
since its inception; she was named the president of the NACGN during the years of 1949-
1951. The NACGN mission was to end discrimination towards African Americans by
college officials and the healthcare system and to strive towards integration of African
American nurses into all aspects of nursing. One aspect of nursing that Staupers felt
strongly about was limited access African American nurses had in the Army and Navy
Nurses Corps. During WWII, there was a shortage of nurses and Staupers took full
advantage of the situation. She used the shortage as leverage for African American nurses
to gain access to the Army and Navy Nurse Corps. She worked closely with Eleanor
Roosevelt through a letter writing campaign, convincing politicians to recognize all
nurses; black or white. By 1945, Staupers successfully ended discrimination in the Armed
Forces Nurse Corps. Another success for Staupers came in 1948, when her years of work
with the NACGN helped African American nurses gain full acceptance into the American
Nurses Association (ANA).
Mabel Staupers was honored for her work in nursing by receiving many awards. She was
a recipient of the Mary Mahoney Award, an award given twice a year to those that have
made significant contributions to those that help promote desegregation. Staupers was
recognized for her leadership and contributions to African American nurses by receiving
the Spingarn Medal for 1951. The Spingarn Committee is affiliated with the NAACP.
She was also inducted into the ANA in 1996 due to her valiant efforts to eliminate
discrimination. This was a huge accomplishment given that this was the same
organization that restricted memberships to African American nurses until 1949.
Staupers, at the age of 71, documented the history of African Americans in nursing in a
book titled, No Time for Prejudice. Although described as an autobiography, I found it to
be more of an account of the history of nursing. She...